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Bunions: Picture, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention

A bunion is a bony, lumpy deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe.

The bunion will start to make the big toe point towards the other toes on the foot.

The medical name for bunions is hallux valgus.

A 2011 study in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, found that more than 1 in 3 older adults has at least one bunion, and they can really slow a person down.

Study participants with bunions were more likely to experience pain in other parts of their body, including the hip, knee, lower back and foot.

Previous studies have shown that bunions may affect gait, balance and increase risk of falls in older people, but researchers speculate that along with these issues, people with severe bunions may report less satisfaction with their lives because they have trouble finding shoes they like to wear.

Picture of a bunion

Bunion picture and x-ray

Because a bunion occurs at a joint, where the toe bends during normal walking, your entire body weight rests on the bunion at each step. Bunions can be extremely painful. They are also vulnerable to excess pressure and friction from shoes and can lead to the development of calluses.

How do I know if I have bunions?

Although bunions are usually obvious from the pain and unusual shape of the toe, further investigation is often advisable. Your doctor will usually send you for X-rays to determine the extent of the deformity. Blood tests may be advised to see if some type of arthritis could be causing the pain. Based on this evaluation, your doctor can determine whether you need orthopaedic shoes, medication, surgery or other treatment.

What causes bunions?

Bunions are thought to have an inherited component. It has also been suggested that wearing shoes with elevated heels and a narrow toe-box may contribute to bunion development, as can having flat feet.

What are the symptoms of bunions?

Look for an angular, bony bump on the side of the foot at the base of the big toe. Sometimes hardened skin or a callus covers this bump.

There's often swelling, redness, unusual tenderness, or pain at the base of the big toe and in the ball of the foot. Eventually, the area becomes shiny and warm to the touch.

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